Monday 30 March 2020 11:11 am

Barclays outlines new climate policy amid mounting pressure from activists

Barclays said it plans to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 and will only provide financing to projects aligned with the Paris Agreement climate goals.

The London-based bank said it will table a resolution on its new climate policy for shareholders to vote on at its annual general meeting (AGM) in May, and said it would provide targets to judge its progress and report on them regularly from 2021.

Read more: Climate change: Barclays shareholders call on bank to stop financing fossil fuel firms

Barclays has come under sustained criticism from investors and activists over its climate policy, which they say is weaker than many of its rivals. 

The lender is Europe’s biggest financier of fossil fuel companies, according to the Rainforest Action group, and has provided them with over £100bn funds since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.

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Barclays was already facing a separate shareholder resolution on climate change at its AGM, coordinated by responsible investment pressure group Share Action. 

The motion, which has been backed by large investors including asset managers Amuni and Jupiter, calls for the phasing out of financing for the most carbon-intensive energy companies.

Share Action said today it will recommend that Barclays investors back both its resolution and the bank’s. 

Wolfgang Kuhn, Share Action’s director of finance sector strategies, said Barclays’ new policy was “win for investor stewardship in the UK,” but added: “Nevertheless, announcing a 30-year ambition is arguably the easy bit.”

“The test is now on investors who are serious about climate change to translate this ambition into a strong fossil fuel phase-out plan by supporting both climate resolutions,” he said. 

Dominic Burke, investment director at Lankelly Chase, and a co-filer of Share Action’s resolution, criticised the lender’s announcement.

Read more: Barclays braces for pressure from activist investor and climate campaigners

“We need commitment not just ambition from a bank that only last year increased financing for oil, gas and coal companies by £2.9bn,” he said.

“If a net-zero ambition does not involve phasing out fossil fuel financing, then what does it mean? Investors should ask what Barclays’ ambition will amount to if it doesn’t encompass at the very least a timescale for phase-out. The time has passed for carefully drafted position statements,” Burke added.